With the charm of Abe Lincoln, the wit of Reagan, and the industriousness of Bill Simmons – Anders
Rotto is a humble hero who has led, limped, and lived with homely hospitality and a selfless love for others. With eloquence, warmth and an aura of unwavering stability, Anders and his journey of life demonstrate fervent faith and joy in living with unrestrained hope.
After two tumultuous days of soccer trials and the glorious success of earning a spot on the varsity team in a warm August week as a young freshman, Anders watched his world fade away with a kick of a ball, a crack of his bones. Fracturing his ankle in soccer practice as a young high schooler, Anders watched his identity in athletics and his future plans disintegrate like his ankle, facing a year off the field and an “altered mindset.” Injured so early in the season, he never played a game. Having never experienced a major injury, sitting out an entire athletic season as a naïve, deeply invested freshman, put his priorities and his perception of what is valuable into perspective.
In his time off the field in recovering from his injury, Anders walked into (or limped rather) into reconciliation with God, realizing he had “put too much stock” into a sport as the creator of his identity. Although the first may be the worst, second is not always the best – before long Anders was on an operating table for torn cartilage in his knee. With rehab and rest, Anders relinquished another year of his life to living off the soccer fields and basketball courts. Loss is an unwavering constant in life. But what marks those who live empowered, is trust in the inner and great workings that one cannot see but only pursue – in faith.
Shaped by the loss of time from playing the game that grappled his mind, Anders watched as the tone for the rest of his high school and college careers in athletics, relationships, and Christianity was set. Soccer was a pleasure, a joy, and a source of comfortable familiarity – it was a “God given gift” – but it was “not the be all end all.” Anders demonstrates a delicate gift of distinguishing his own human desires from the workings of God. But he has more than just intellectual humility, he offers a radiant hope in faith, in which he need not fear losing what he loved, because faith would sustain – and that it did. Anders found himself on the Wheaton men’s soccer team, a comfortable distance from home in Indiana, surrounded by heroes on and off the field.
The “best team” he ever played on was at Wheaton, where for once, “egos weren’t everywhere” and “guys don’t hate each other.” As history repeats itself, Anders found himself walking away from the sport that brought him the highs and lows of life, as after two years on the collegiate Wheaton team, he decided to pursue all that was left to experience in this life – ministry work, relationships, and journalism.
What is so satisfying about writing, a slower pace of life than the lights of a field and the cheer of a crowd “is the people beyond the sport.” “Once the game is over, people don’t remember who won,” but they remember the relationships outside the game that make the sacrifices of the sport worth it. In an on and off again relationship with athletics, Anders grew an increasing, impressive interest in the bigger picture of passions, choices, and one’s time – he developed a deep appreciation for human interest. Admiring the relationships and opportunities that accompany athletics, Anders looked towards that which is “bigger than sports itself” – the people, the personalities, the stories behind it all. Human relationships are essential to both life and athletics because “nothing about a touchdown will change someone’s life meaningfully” but sports give players and participants a platform to improve their own or others lives in a God-glorifying manner.
Anders carries this comfortable familiarity. He embodies a humble independence. Though he belongs to an expansive community of avid athletes whose lives revolve around their feet in their cleats and their head in the game, Anders approaches both athletics and life with an unearthly prioritization of human relationships – the grander scheme of eternal joy. Anders was likely dribbling a basketball in the womb and kicking soccer balls in his dreams. As a passionate athlete from an early age, Anders walked with athletics on a journey of triumph, tribulation, identity, and faith. For, in hardship, “you are more than your circumstances.”
Refreshingly, Anders carries a natural spin on athletics that is cloaked with humility and kindness, where the spirit of the game concerns community more than competition. Anders is that kid that led the line to recess in kindergarten who you desperately wished to be friends with. For it is the one who earns the spot at the front of the line for embodying compassion, kindness, and diligence, that will lead those that aspire to know them.
And where does this thoughtful human appreciation and unworldly wisdom arise from?
Well, it’s a combination of honorable parents and a strong sense of self that is fostered by the joys of John Grisham novels, days at Lake Michigan, and the responsibility of big-brotherhood.
As a Nebraska born, Indiana raised hoosier, big brother to a high school sophomore, Elijah, and a shih tzu lover, Anders lives a life outside the standard. His parents, previously both CEO’s of different non-profit companies, challenged Anders in his youth to look beyond himself and into his community. His mom, dedicated to the interior community of schools, valued the students falling behind by assigning personal mentors dedicated to crafting a support system for troubled students. Ministering to inner city children with no structures of parents, Ander’s dad worked outside of the school system, providing after school care for children to avoid the volatile environments of home or the threats of the streets. Encompassed in a wealthy small-town like Caramel, how does one family foster and maintain humility?
Living like one’s neighbor. Anders found himself in the same summer camps as the children his parents worked with, offering a perspective his fellow friends who remained on the inside, did not bear. Eventually, Anders balanced living would equip him with adaptability in adversity. When the recession ravaged America and his parent’s non-profit work funded by government grants, the Rotto family faced hardship with humility and reliance on God, as you “can’t help what you can’t help” but you can choose how you respond to the fortunes and misfortunes of life.
Anders is warm. He procrastinates. He awaits days in the office with ESPN. He is eager for the two golden retrievers he will one day call his own. He would likely “cry” if he found out he was dying tomorrow. He enjoys How I Met Your Mother. His favorite movie(s) is the Batman trilogy. He intends on travelling to England before dying and he also intends on skydiving. If he had to get a tattoo, he’d hit the gym to boost his biceps, then likely ink Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Six-foot-three with a manly and miniscule (kind of) fear of tight spaces, Anders has faced his fear of the future and the unknown with the premise that “worrying won’t change anything,” and living fearlessly is a journey towards “trusting God, his plan, his will.”
In a matter of months, you can catch him skiing in the white noise of crystal waters, and in a matter of years, you can find him in Italy, Australia, with two golden retrievers in Michigan, or behind an ESPN desk doing what he does best, “offering 110%” serving others – serving those he knows and those he has yet to meet.